2010 Florida Statutes
The removal, cutting, or trimming of trees or vegetation on public right-of-way to make visible or to ensure future visibility of the facing of a proposed sign or previously permitted sign shall be performed only with the written permission of the department in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Any person desiring to engage in the removal, cutting, or trimming of trees or vegetation for the purposes herein described shall make written application to the department. The application shall include the applicant’s plan for the removal, cutting, or trimming and for the management of any vegetation planted as part of a mitigation plan.
As a condition of any removal of trees or vegetation, and where the department deems appropriate as a condition of any cutting or trimming, the department may require a vegetation management plan, approved by the department, which considers conservation and mitigation, or contribution to a plan of mitigation, for the replacement of such vegetation. Each plan or contribution shall reasonably relate to the vegetation being affected by the application and, where appropriate, shall include plantings which will allow reasonable visibility of sign facings while screening sign structural supports. The department may establish special mitigation programs for the beautification and aesthetic improvement of designated areas and permit individual applicants to contribute to such programs as a part or in lieu of other mitigation requirements.
The department may establish an application fee not to exceed $25 for each individual application to defer the costs of processing such application and a fee not to exceed $200 to defer the costs of processing an application for multiple sites.
The department may only grant a permit pursuant to s. 479.07 for a new sign which requires the removal, cutting, or trimming of existing trees or vegetation on public right-of-way for the sign face to be visible from the highway when the sign owner has removed at least two nonconforming signs of approximate comparable size and surrendered the permits for the nonconforming signs to the department for cancellation. For signs originally permitted after July 1, 1996, no permit for the removal, cutting, or trimming of trees or vegetation shall be granted where such trees or vegetation are part of a beautification project implemented prior to the date of the original sign permit application, when the beautification project is specifically identified in the department’s construction plans, permitted landscape projects, or agreements.
Beautification projects, trees, or other vegetation shall not be planted or located in the view zone of legally erected and permitted outdoor advertising signs which have been permitted prior to the date of the beautification project or other planting, where such planting will, at the time of planting or after future growth, screen such sign from view.
View zones are established along the public rights-of-way of interstate highways, expressways, federal-aid primary highways, and the State Highway System in the state, excluding privately or other publicly owned property, as follows:
A view zone of 350 feet for posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.
A view zone of 500 feet for posted speed limits of over 35 miles per hour.
The established view zone shall be within the first 1,000 feet measured along the edge of the pavement in the direction of approaching traffic from a point on the edge of the pavement perpendicular to the edge of the sign facing nearest the highway and shall be continuous unless interrupted by existing, naturally occurring vegetation. The department and the sign owner may enter into an agreement identifying the specific location of the view zone for each sign facing. In the absence of such agreement, the established view zone shall be measured from the sign along the edge of the pavement in the direction of approaching traffic as provided in this subsection.
If a sign owner alleges any governmental entity or other party has violated this subsection, the sign owner must provide 90 days’ written notice to the governmental entity or other party allegedly violating this subsection. If the alleged violation is not cured by the governmental entity or other party within the 90-day period, the sign owner may file a claim in the circuit court where the sign is located. A copy of such complaint shall be served contemporaneously upon the governmental entity or other party. If the circuit court determines a violation of this subsection has occurred, the court shall award a claim for compensation equal to the lesser of the revenue from the sign lost during the time of screening or the fair market value of the sign, and the governmental entity or other party shall pay the award of compensation subject to available appeal. Any modification or removal of material within a beautification project or other planting by the governmental entity or other party to cure an alleged violation shall not require the issuance of a permit from the Department of Transportation provided not less than 48 hours’ notice is provided to the department of the modification or removal of the material. A natural person, private corporation, or private partnership licensed under part II of chapter 481 providing design services for beautification or other projects shall not be subject to a claim of compensation under this section when the initial project design meets the requirements of this section.
This subsection shall not apply to the provisions of any existing written agreement executed before July 1, 2006, between any local government and the owner of an outdoor advertising sign.
Any person engaging in removal, cutting, or trimming of trees or vegetation in violation of this section or benefiting from such actions shall be subject to an administrative penalty of up to $1,000 and required to mitigate for the unauthorized removal, cutting, or trimming in such manner and in such amount as may be required under the rules of the department.
The intent of this section is to create partnering relationships which will have the effect of improving the appearance of Florida’s highways and creating a net increase in the vegetative habitat along the roads. Department rules shall encourage the use of plants which are low maintenance and native to the general region in which they are planted.
s. 4, ch. 96-201; s. 1, ch. 2006-249.